The parents of the Mitchell School District have spoken.
Through parent surveys conducted at recent parent-teacher conferences, the 2018-19 calendar for the school district has been completed. And on Monday night, the Mitchell Board of Education approved the calendar, which includes a Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, school start date and a shorter winter break.
According to Superintendent Joe Graves, every other year, parents are surveyed about the upcoming school year. This year parents were asked about what date they preferred school to begin and how long winter break should last.
Graves reported to the board the district received a "definitive answer" on both of these questions, and on Nov. 28 the school's calendar committee - which includes a school board representative, two district parents, a teacher rep from each school building and a classified staff representative and Graves - met to draft the 2018-19 school year.
School board member Lacey Musick, who resides on the committee, said the surveys showed that a majority of parents preferred a Wednesday start date of Aug. 22 and a shorter winter break versus a two-week break.
Approximately 408 parents preferred the Aug. 22 date versus an earlier start date of Aug. 15, which saw 180 parents in favor. Even fewer were in favor of a Monday, Aug. 20 start date or a late Tuesday, Sept. 4 start date.
As far as a winter break, 507 parents were in favor of a shorter break versus the 387 that voted for a full two weeks of holiday break.
"We weren't surprised with the start date," Musick said. "A lot of feedback in the last couple years is that parents want to start on a Wednesday, and nobody wants to start a week before because it's really cutting into summer break."
Musick said it's often a "toss-up" between the preference on Christmas breaks, and often comes down to which day of the week the holiday lands on. For 2018, the district set the winter break to begin Dec. 24 and go through Jan. 2.
Musick added the calendar committee does its best to keep both semesters even as far as the number of days, which board member Neil Putnam noted during the five-person board's meeting.
"The semesters are still a bit uneven, but I don't know how else there is to do that," he said, adding there is about a week's difference between the two.
Graves agreed, and said the only way to make the semester exactly even is to start a week in advance, but based on the surveys, parents don't want an earlier date.
"The main thing is to make sure we have the semester as equal as we can," Musick said. "We don't want to push the semester to end after Christmas and this is just a happy compromise."
As part of a consent agenda that includes board minutes, claims and open enrollment, the board approved the following personnel items:
• New Hires: Pat Larson, freshman boys basketball coach, compensation of $3,510, effective Nov. 11; Lisa Lind, custodian at Mitchell Middle School, compensation of $13 per hour for eight hours per day, effective Nov. 16; Michael Sadler, eighth-grade head boys basketball coach, compensation of $2,201, effective 2017-18 school year; Jonathan Voelker, district maintenance, compensation of $15 per hour for eight hours per day, effective Dec. 4.
• Early Retirement/ Resignation: Dodie Schlueter, middle school math teacher, effective May 25, 2018.
• MTI New Hires: Kerry Hagemeier, 2017-18 spring adjunct, compensation of $2,400, effective Jan. 1, 2018.
• MTI Resignation: Dirk Leiseth, natural gas/ HVAC instructor, effective Nov. 17.
In other regular business, the board:
• Approved a revision to board policy 971, which focuses on the curriculum review planning calendar, on first reading. The district conducts curriculum reviews in specific instructional areas every seven years.
• Approved the joint city and school election date for June 5, 2018. Business Manager Steve Culhane noted Davison County will also have seats up for elections on this day and will join to save money and receive higher voter turnout.
• Recognized Shane Thill as Region 3 Assistant Principal of the Year in South Dakota.
• Heard no public commentary.
• Heard board member reports.
• Heard a report from Superintendent Graves, who said the annual process for which Mitchell Technical Institute sells the student-built shop and site houses through its architectural design and building construction program may change. Instead of waiting until the end of the spring semester to begin the selling process, MTI has requested the board approve an earlier sale that begins in January. Graves said the topic will be brought to the board at its January meeting.